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Bautista first to 30 homers in Jays' rout of O's

Bautista first to 30 homers in Jays' rout of O's

TORONTO -- Jose Bautista is no longer flying under the radar. After existing as an early-season surprise for the Blue Jays, Bautista has developed into the focal point of the offense and turned himself into one of the top power threats in baseball.

"He's been hurting everybody," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said. "Not just us."

On Tuesday night, Bautista was at it again.

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In helping power the Blue Jays to an 8-2 victory over the Orioles, Bautista launched two home runs, crossed home plate three times, notched four hits and collected five RBIs. On his own, Bautista did enough damage with the bat to support a solid start from left-hander Ricky Romero.

With the win, the Blue Jays (52-49) improved to 11-0 this season against the Orioles, marking the first time Toronto has ever opened a campaign with 11 wins in a row against any team. The 11-game winning streak against Baltimore is also the second-longest run against one opponent in franchise history.

In the first two games of the current three-game set against the Orioles (31-69), Bautista has belted three home runs, upping his Major League-leading total to 30 long balls. Bautista's power has not been restricted to his bat, either. The right fielder also tallied a pair of outfield assists over the past two wins.

"That shows you what kind of player he is," Romero said. "The home runs are just the icing on the cake. He can do it all. He can hit, he can run and he can throw. He's got those tools, and I'm happy for him."

In the first inning, Bautista followed consecutive singles from Fred Lewis and Yunel Escobar by drilling a 1-0 pitch from Orioles right-hander Kevin Millwood deep to left field. The baseball came crashing down into the second deck for a three-run blast that gave the Blue Jays an early 3-0 lead.

By the bottom of the eighth inning, Toronto's lead had increased to 6-2 -- thanks in part to a two-run double from Vernon Wells in the fourth. Lewis once again got things started with a single and Bautista once again crushed a pitch to left field, where it slipped over the wall for a two-run shot.

Asked if he is surprised to still see fastballs over the plate, Bautista smiled.

"They have to do it at some point," Bautista said. "It would be pretty odd if I went up there and I only saw breaking balls. I'm just trying to look for them, and when I see them, I'm trying to hit them hard. I've been successful lately."

Since returning from a trip to his first All-Star Game, Bautista has been successful to the tune of a .353 average, six home runs and 19 RBIs in 12 games. After bouncing up and down the lineup for much of the beginning of the season, Bautista has found a home in the third spot in the order and now has 75 RBIs for the Jays.

Suddenly, driving in 100 runs does not seem out of reach.

"That's one of the things I set out to do at some point in my career," Bautista said. "I've always wanted to reach that plateau. Obviously, the elite players are the ones that are able to drive runs in and help the team win. That would be a pretty amazing number, if I could reach it."

Bautista's latest showing stole the spotlight from Romero.

"That's fine," Romero said with a laugh.

Romero (8-7) gave up two runs on nine hits over 7 2/3 innings en route to his second win in his past three starts. Since the All-Star break, the young lefty has fashioned a 2.08 ERA. On Tuesday night, Romero ended with eight strikeouts and one walk, earning his third win this year against the Orioles.

"We're not going to forget about Ricky," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He pitched a good game for us. He kept us right there. He pitched an outstanding game. Every time I see him out there, I just think that this kid is going to be one of the better starters in this league."

This win included some flashy defensive gems from the Blue Jays as well.

In the fifth inning, Escobar raced up the middle and snared a hard grounder off the bat of Jake Fox. With no time to make a throw, Escobar did a behind-the-back flip with his glove, tossing the baseball to second baseman Aaron Hill for a force out.

The crowd inside Rogers Centre went wild, offering a standing ovation for a grinning Escobar.

"I wouldn't teach kids that," Escobar joked.

"That should be the play of the week," Gaston said. "If not, I'd like to see the play of the week."

With runners on second and third, and no outs in the eighth inning for the Orioles, Luke Scott sent a fly ball to right field for a run-scoring sacrifice fly. On the play, Baltimore's Nick Markakis tagged up at second base and sprinted for third when Bautista caught the ball in right.

Without hesitating, Bautista came up firing, releasing a rocket to third base to nail Markakis. That gave Bautista nine outfield assists, which leads the American League and is tied for the most in the Majors this season.

"What an exciting player he is," Romero said. "That throw he made in the eighth inning was pretty amazing."

By now, it should not be a secret that Bautista boasts one of the best arms in the league.

"Sometimes I am surprised when they go," Bautista admitted.

After all, Bautista has been hurting opposing teams all season.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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